Don’t Let the Fire Die

I challenge anyone reading this newsletter to tell me things aren’t broken.  Ask any 25 people if they still love the business, twenty people will say they hate it, and the other five are lying.  That’s not because there is a lack of creative energy, nor is it because people in the content business have lost their love for coming up with great ideas, for selling them, for making them, and for distributing them.   

All those appealing attributes that brought every one of us to careers like ours still exists.  Yet we are at such an epochal pivot point that it’s hard to remember – whether you have been around the block or are just coming out of the starting gate – what led you to a career in the television content industry in the first place.  

Perhaps it was the itch to create something that would last.  Or something that could entertain large numbers of people.  Maybe it was to tell a unique story.  Focus on something that needed wider attention.  Or perhaps it was much more primal than that.  You grew up watching television, you saw daytime game shows while home sick from school.  You saw great adventures on television and in the movies and wanted to join that band wagon and tell stories, Ma!  I gotta tell stories!  I gotta do this!!  

Whatever spark led to your current career I firmly believe it still burns brightly within all of you.  You wouldn’t be reading this, wouldn’t be a member of this community, if there weren’t some white-hot fire, some deep creative urge to make content that keeps you going.   

I once heard an acting coach talk about what it takes to be an actor.  Paraphrased, essentially it boiled down to this: do it because you love it so much you can’t imagine doing anything else.  It will be hard; people will knock you down; breaking through is impossible, maintaining a successful career can crush the most optimistic among us.  But do it because you love it.   

As Hyman Roth says in The Godfather, Part 2, “THIS is the business we’ve chosen.” So do it!  

And yet, what is a producer, writer, creator, distributor to do at a time of such massive, tectonic shifts in the entertainment ecosystem?  How not to drown, not get lost, not give up hope?  

Over the past few months, I have run into so many people adrift about their futures.  Producers and writers desperately creating brilliant new concepts – and all that the buyers are doing is greenlighting reboots of old titles.  Teams of incredibly talented craftspeople – independent of the GEGs (Global Entertainment Giants) yet with mountains of originality and energy –  struggling to get commissions, or work of any kind.  Miles have been written about the scarcity of work for so many.  Writers have been on strike in the US for months now – it’s existential when people can’t even maintain a modest lifestyle doing the work they love.

AND YET – where one door closes, another opens.  “No” is the beginning of “yes.” If passion got you into the business, then passion must keep you fighting.  Explode with creativity and push that damned rock up that damned hill.   

First there were silent films.  Next there were talkies – the folks who made the silents kept  saying, “All we need is one good silent film to bring ‘em back into the theatres.” Sound familiar?  Then broadcast television, then cable, then social media, then streamers… and on it goes.   

The point is there will always be radical change in society, and especially – particularly – in the world of the arts and entertainment.  And so, my friends, as we hear stories of immense hardship and threats of global existential crises in our business… as the GEGs crunch their bottom lines, fewer original shows get made, fewer commissions are spread to the wider community, and fewer jobs are available to the great, hungry, unwashed masses – I URGE  EVERYONE to roll up your sleeves, put your noses to the grindstones, pull up your pants and every other motivational cliché you can think of, and keep CREATING.   

No matter what distribution systems are out there, they’re all going to need content!  Reinvent your business models if you can, if you have to, if you are able to survive any way you can… but by all means – CREATE CREATE CREATE.  

It’s your duty, dammit.  Your country needs you!  Keep nurturing that initial spark and let that childhood, primal flame burn brightly.  In the madness and fog of the world of today, it’s the only sure light we can see.  

Phil Gurin 

4 July 2023

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